Remember how automatic Alex Rodriguez's postseason failure used to be? Remember how you knew, his team knew, the opposing pitcher knew - heck, even A-Rod knew - that his bat would turn into Play Doh once the calendar turned to October?
Well, not anymore.
Come on in and enter Alex Rodriguez's bizarro world, where the opposite of everything that New Yorkers have come to expect from this guy is occurring before your very eyes.
Rodriguez finally has shed his well-earned reputation for being a postseason "dog" - his description, circa 2005 - by breaking out in remarkable fashion.
In nine postseason games, Rodriguez is hitting .438 (14-for-32) with a .548 on-base percentage and .969 slugging percentage. He has gotten a hit in every game, including five home runs, and has driven in 12 runs.
Two of the homers were incredibly clutch hits, tying the score in the ninth and 11th innings when the Yankees were three outs from a loss that would have tied the series. A third homer tied it up in the seventh inning in the ALDS clincher. "He doesn't need to prove anything anymore," Jorge Posada said. "He's the best player in baseball."
Rodriguez dug himself quite a ditch to get out of, and we're not even talking about his steroid admission in spring training or his hip surgery that cost him the first 28 games of the season. This guy's knuckles used to become so cold in the postseason that Joe Torre famously dropped him to eighth in the lineup once.
Yet the Angels barely wanted to pitch to him in this year's ALCS, walking him eight times as he compiled a .567 on-base percentage (17-for-30). And you can't blame them for giving A-Rod the Barry Bonds treatment; he's been that lethal in these past nine games.
There was the two-run blast into the Yankees' bullpen off Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of ALDS Game 2. And the shot he hit off Carl Pavano in ALDS Game 3 that sent the Yankees on their way to a sweep. And then, of course, there was the 11th-inning homer off Angels closer Brian Fuentes in ALCS Game 2 that cemented the fact that his past failures no longer are relevant.
This is a new guy up there.
"It was just a matter of time before his ability would break out in the postseason," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He's just been unbelievable for us.
"Nobody works harder than him in the offseason. Nobody works harder than him at training. There's nobody you'll find has more ability than he does. It was just a matter of time."
Rodriguez offers no tangible explanation except to say he's been able to stay relaxed. You never would have described him that way in previous Octobers, especially as he ran a remarkable streak of leaving 40 consecutive men on base. He went 15 straight games without an RBI and was 4-for-50 at one point.
Now he gets to bring his new postseason act on to the grandest stage, the World Series, for the first time in his career. The only active player who has played more games than Rodriguez (2,166) without appearing in a World Series is his former Mariners teammate, Ken Griffey Jr., at 2,638.
A Mets fan while growing up in Miami, Rodriguez has often told the story of how he watched the 1986 World Series from his bedroom. And he remembers jumping up and down on his bed as the Mets pulled off an incredible Game 6 victory before winning the championship the next game.
Now A-Rod is in the midst of pulling off a comeback for the ages. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a 5-year-old boy to play in the World Series, and it's been a long time waiting," he said. "In order to win the World Series, you have to get there first, and this is pretty incredible - especially with all the stuff I've been through."
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